INTENTIONAL FOCUS ON FUTURE
Beechum, Walker and Woods are all entrepreneurs – venturing out on their own, taking a chance and elevating the quality and awareness of Black-owned businesses in the city. There are others, however, who have created organizations intentionally designed to ensure that there are future generations of Black entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps.
Dr. Willie Haskins grew up in the Forest Park neighborhood in Oklahoma City. His father had a third-grade education. His mother finished her bachelor’s degree at the age of 60. Over two decades ago, Haskins had $2,000 saved up and an idea in his head. He put his name on a lease for a space at One Western Plaza for $1,500 a month in the hopes of building a substance abuse counseling organization. He saw citizens suffering around his community, which was being ravaged by drugs, alcohol, fatherlessness, psychological distress and racism.
During Haskins’ third week in his rental space, with next month’s rent looming overhead like the Sword of Damocles, he received a call out of the blue from an old acquaintance. Suddenly, he was connected with Guthrie Job Corps for a contract to provide substance abuse counseling to its employees. That first contract helped Haskins stay in business and build up COPE, Inc., a multi-cultural behavioral outpatient clinic and 501(c)(3) non-profit that is geared to meet the specific needs of Oklahoma City’s Black population.
COPE Inc., offers programs on topics ranging across the spectrum – investing, family skills development, education tutoring and employment. It’s a wide net that Haskins casts, but his aim is to not let anyone in the community fall through the cracks.
“We do not turn anyone away from the agency here that needs help,” said Dr. Haskins. “That’s the most important thing that I try to get out there into the community.”